Learning to shake the guilt

The pressing guilt I had been experiencing all day hadn’t started with the fact that I had slept in. Nor did it stem from when I cut that guy off on 60th Street the other day. It wasn’t that itching reminder that I’ve been dropping the proverbial ball with friendships lately or that my healthy eating plan has somehow evolved from rice cakes and cottage cheese to loaded nachos with salsa and sour cream.

The pressing guilt I had been experiencing all day hadn’t started with the fact that I had slept in.

Nor did it stem from when I cut that guy off on 60th Street the other day.

It wasn’t that itching reminder that I’ve been dropping the proverbial ball with friendships lately or that my healthy eating plan has somehow evolved from rice cakes and cottage cheese to loaded nachos with salsa and sour cream.

It wasn’t any of these things that caused the mind-numbing, puffy red eyes under dark shades, anxiety-ridden feeling that I had been dealing with for the last six hours.

No, my guilt today came from quite literally a pair of uncomfortable shorts. Well, that and my bad attitude.

After the fifth pair of pants I struggled to get on Lars, I began to get a little perturbed. He and I both were tottering on a thin ledge — any abrasive movements would result in a mean fall into the oblivion of meltdowns and waterworks. I knew this, so I tried to stay cool.

But it was when we heaved on his last pair of clean shorts and his fingers continued to fiddle with the seams, or the bulk of the pockets, or the button on the fly, or the fly itself, that I snapped.

“WHAT’S WRONG NOW?” I yelled.

Yes I yelled.

I could begin typing down all of my excuses for yelling at the boy this early morning hour but that would just be futile. Because what it boils down to is that I yelled over something really, really dumb. He didn’t answer, he just stared at me with a sad blank look.

I dug into his pajama pants drawer, threw a pair of sweats his way and told him he could just wear that. I reiterated for the 10th time that we were going to be late for school so, “hurry up.”

As I walked out of my son’s room, I heard his crying but I didn’t turn back to comfort him.

Selfishness, annoyance, stubbornness and clearly child-like behaviour (on my part) stopped me.

Lars walked into the kitchen a few minutes later holding his Dad’s hand.

“I’ll walk him to school, hun,” Jamie said without a trace of judgment in his voice from my temper tantrum moments before. This only made me feel even more ridiculous.

I knelt down to Lars’s height gave him a hug and once again heard his sadness over our previous debacle. He sobbed deeply into my chest and it was all I could do to keep my own tears at bay. “I’m so sorry I yelled at you Lars — that was wrong of me.”

“That’s OK Mama,” he replied between cavernously deep breaths.

I attempted to remind him of the happy notes he gets to look forward to at school, like library class and gymnastics. And because Lars is the sweet and sensitive soul he is, he tried to indulge my efforts with a half-hearted smile.

But when it came down to it, I had single-handedly ruined my son’s morning — a kid who had already been having anxieties about his new venture into elementary school.

My outburst did not help and no amount of happy notes could change that.

And this is how the Mom-guilt began. I watched the boys walk out the back door towards the school.

Quickly I retrieved the laundry basket of dirty clothes and scurried downstairs to the washing room.

There I let myself cry. I cried over how stupid I felt. I cried out of anger for allowing myself to make my son feel so sad over something as trivial as getting dressed. I cried because the guilt had gobbled up any goodness I tried to summon at that exact moment.

After a few minutes in my pool of self-pity and dirty clothes, I pulled it together. I did my chores and ran my errands — all the while not able to get Lars out of my mind.

I wondered how he was doing as I checked cantaloupes at the grocery store. I revisited the events of our terrible morning in my mind over and over again as I jogged down the path behind our house.

And as I quickly scurried towards his school to pick him up, my anxieties ran high over what I would find when he walked out of those front doors.

Imagination can sometimes be an awful thing, especially in times like these. I imagined my boy exiting that school as a fragile and frail little being — ruined by the confrontation we had that fateful morning.

Instead, the kid ran out with rosy cheeks and a smile from ear to ear on his face.

As we skipped home, he told me about his day and how excited he was for gymnastics that evening. He didn’t mention our morning. It was the farthest thing from his mind.

That’s the thing about guilt, it is an onus made only for remorseful. And it is there to reminds us that when we have a bad day, we must always aim for a better tomorrow.

Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.

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